How to Buy an Engagement Ring

The question of how to buy an engagement ring is one that most New Zealand men, and many women, will come across at some stage.  It’s something that is (hopefully) only done once, and it is a significant decision, not to mention a significant financial outlay.
P.S. Do NOT purchase a diamond without reading the Diamond Price Guide.

I chose my own engagement ring, and until recently I actually thought I was the exception.  It turns out, I’m not – while out “researching” this article last week I asked Dan of The Diamond Shop whether more men came in and bought the ring alone, or if couples came in together.  Not only was the answer the latter, but even when men do buy the ring themselves, usually the woman has had a significant part to play in his decision.  It’s a big expectation on men to make it alone, so whether you’re helping to nudge your partner along, or you’re choosing the ring together, here’s everything you need to know about buying a diamond engagement ring.

The first question you both might be asking yourselves, is how much should I spend on an engagement ring?

buy an engagement ring

While I may have helped perpetuate the myth (started by De Beers with the slogan) to Blair that you’re supposed to spend 2 months’ salary on a ring, this is exactly that – a myth.

buy an engagement ring

The De Beers Slogan  ‘How can you make two months’ salary last forever”

In the 1930’s DeBeers started a marketing campaign that suggested the perfect diamond engagement ring spend was a month’s salary, by the 1980’s it was up to two months salary!

Dan of The Diamond Shop said:

The greater portion of your budget will be the diamond as opposed to the ring.  The diamond’s value is based on its size and quality known as the ‘Four C’s’.  I suggest you learn about the four C’s to make an informed decision with your diamond selection.

I recommend you spend as much as you can comfortably afford.

The most popular diamond shape is the round brilliant cut due do its pleasing shape and outstanding brilliance.  It is my experience that most women aspire to a one carat diamond, which can range from NZ$7,000 up to NZ$27,000 depending on the quality.  If this is above your budget, half carat diamonds range from NZ$2,000 up to NZ$5,000.”

I would agree with Dan, that most women would aspire to have a one carat, but personally, I’d prefer a good quality ‘sparkly’ diamond, than a larger poor quality one.  Reputable jewellers will only sell high-quality diamonds, so be aware of what you are investing in, and shop around.

The average cost of an engagement ring (according to a 2011 survey by The Knot) is $6300.  You can use this below tool to approximate what various engagement rings would cost.

how to buy an engagement ring

Once you have a budget in mind

All loose diamonds are graded and certified by an independent laboratory.  Their grade is given based on a scale, and it is the grade of diamond that affects how much you will pay for it, and therefore what you can purchase with your budget.

“The Four C’s”stand for Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat.

The way a diamond is cut determines its brilliance (its sparkle and shine).  Cut well, a diamond can also appear larger.  When cut to the proper proportions, light shines through the diamond and returns through the top.  If the diamond is “shallow” the light leaks.  The GIA cut scale is “Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor”

A diamond’s “colour” is actually a bit misleading, as it’s actually the lack of colour which determines a diamond’s quality.  D is the highest grade, and from K down to Z, diamonds have noticeable colour/discolouration.

Clarity refers to the tiny imperfections or “inclusions” which are in almost every diamond.  Diamonds with the fewest microscopic imperfections receive the highest grades.

The best known of the four C’s is Carat, which most people think refects only the visual size of the diamond, but it’s actually a diamond’s weight.  One carat is equal to 200mg in weight.  If cut shallow, for example, a diamond may appear larger, but have lost much of its sparkle due to the light being lost.  On the contrary, if a diamond is badly cut, much of its carat is wasted in the bottom.  Size is not everything –a diamond of superior cut, clarity and colour will always look better than one that is large but dull.

This picture shows how different carats of diamonds look – image credit to Erstwhile Jewellery.

Besides the four C’s (I recommend reading Dan’s guide to the four C’s which has useful infographics), you’ll have to choose a shape. Shape comes down to personal preference.  If you’ve ever pinned away ring inspo on Pinterest, or browsed #shesaidyes on Instagram, you’ve probably already identified your preferred shape, but you may find this changes when you try them on.

The round brilliant cut is the most popular shape.  There’s plenty of inspiration on pinterest if you have no idea where to start.

buy an engagement ring in various shapes

If men (or women) opt to surprise their partners, many do so with just the diamond, or a diamond in “The Yes Ring” setting, allowing their fiancé to choose the setting.  In general terms, a ring will cost between NZ$1,500 and $3,000 depending on the metal used and whether it’s cast or handmade.

If you do want to surprise your partner (or be surprised) with the complete ring, I recommend some research to determine what she’d like.  When a friend recently got engaged, her partner turned to Pinterest to see what she had previously pinned, I’d taken photos on my phone of rings I liked, or you might like to put a post-it in a magazine or leave a printed page lying around, to give a bit of a hint.  Men, if you’re reading and she hasn’t given you a hint, you could also ask her best friend.  I know that my best friend wants a Canary Diamond ring, so when the time comes, hopefully someone asks me!

Ring Size
Blair later told me he’d already worked out my ring size with another ring I’d been wearing, though as I said above, I actually chose my own ring (proposal story).  If you don’t have a ring to use to estimate, keep in mind it is easier to downsize a ring rather than make it larger.

Duty Free
As many men wait for an overseas trip to “Pop the question”, a duty-free purchase is an ideal way to save money.  Be aware that you’ll have to divert her attention at the airport and hide the ring in your bag (and then protect it with your life) until you propose, but it may be worth it for the 15% GST saving.

I wrote this article with the help of Dan of The Diamond Shop.  The Diamond Shop is the only jeweller in New Zealand to stock the ‘little white book’, which is generously gifted to every customer who buys an engagement ring from the store which is on Queen Street.  They have quite an incredible ‘Diamond Price Guarantee’  and I personally know all the staff, have seen and tried some of the rings, and am very proud to have the little white book associated with them.

The Diamond Shop offers a GIA certificate with all diamonds which is also their guarantee of the diamonds purchased.  They use GIA certificates because they believe them to be the best diamond graders in the world.  This gives the buyer a third party opinion of what they are buying and becomes part of the providence of their purchase.

Head to the wedding planning page for an index of our content and if you haven’t already, check out the little white book wedding organiser and diary.

How beautiful is the Floriana diamond engagement ring? Shop our signature collection now.

A photo posted by The Diamond Shop (@thediamondshop) on